Students from across Maine form new advocacy group
In early December of last year, twenty students from across the state convened to form a new student organization and build the infrastructure of what they plan to be a new student movement. With students representing six Maine colleges and universities, the goal of the Maine Student Action Network will be to empower young people to engage in their communities and collaborate on campaigns to create lasting social change in Maine.
According to participants, student advocacy in Maine has rarely reached beyond the boundaries of individual campuses and they’re hoping to overcome the sometimes sharp divide between college students and broader local communities.
“Being a Mainer who also attends college in Maine, I have always been hyper aware of the sometimes delicate dynamic between college students and longtime residents,” said Meg Lynch, a Bates student who was active in the recent Lewiston mayoral election. “However, attending rallies, participating in meetings, and going door-to-door talking to neighbors, have all allowed me to connect with people I never expected to connect with.”
These campus boundaries will continue to be a matter of debate in Lewiston, where petition seeks to move the city’s municipal election from November to June, which would discourage Bates students from voting.
Students participating in the new group cite contemporary student activists fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage, protesting police brutality and organizing for Black Lives Matter as models to emulate, as well as older movements like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the American Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests in the 1960’s. SNCC coordinated sit-ins and freedom rides, played a leading role in the 1963 March on Washington, and organized voter registration drives across the South
“I know what young people in this state are capable of, but there’s been something missing here,” said Carissa Tinker, a graduate student and intern at Maine People’s Alliance, who helped to bring the group together. “If we want to see real change happen, we need to be part of it. We need to stand up together and show how much we care about Maine.”
“Too many people that I have talked to don’t care about politics because they feel like they can’t make a difference as just one individual. This just isn’t true. You merely have to be willing to get out there and try,” said Nick Moll, a student at Southern Maine Community College and member of the Maine Student Action Network.
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